It appeared that Shelby County and Memphis were heading toward the long-awaited COVID respite seven weeks ago.
After the deadly delta wave, more than 10 years of vaccinations, Shelby County’s overall immunity to COVID-19 — natural and vaccinated — was at its highest point. He expressed his optimism with the caveat of not seeing any worrying variants.
Jain stated that while we may think it’s over, the virus is still with us. We will need to find a new way to combat this.
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Jain stated that he evaluates Omicron based on three factors: how transmissible it can be, how severe it can cause disease and whether it can evade vaccine immunity.
Jain is unsure about the other questions, such as how virulent this strain is and how many vaccines it requires to protect against it.
Jain stated that “we have to have healthy respect for…the new Omicron variant because it can cause a great deal damage in terms of causing illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths which are unnecessary.”
Although the new variant is not yet identified in Shelby County Jain believes it will soon.
Memphis, unlike other variants of Omicron, won’t need to rely on genetic sequence to find it. A machine capable of running a polymer chain-based reaction test can identify Omicron variants, so it is likely to be discovered sooner than if genetic sequence was required.
Jain isn’t completely pessimistic about this new variant. Jain stated that he believes it is possible that the Omicron variant will be protected by existing vaccines and will likely prevent severe illness, which would save people from hospital visits and even death.
Baptist Memorial Healthcare’s infectious disease specialist said that common preventive practices like wearing a mask or distancing could be helpful in the short-term to combat Omicron. This would keep the case curve from getting too steep too quickly.
Jain pointed out that masking and distancing do not provide long-term solutions for COVID-19, unlike vaccines, antiviral medication and antibody treatments. Pfizer and BioNTech indicated that a new shot could be available within 100 days if Omicron’s mutations are too effective at evading immunity from existing vaccines.
Jain is more optimistic about Omicron than about previous surges. He explained that there are more scientific solutions to COVID-19 problems now than ever before.
Jain stated, “I don’t panic about these, the new variants, or the changes we are seeing in numbers. I simply say that these options are available and that I understand them and that if others did, it would be better for us all.”